Written Warnings and Dismissals 5

When compiling a written warning or notification to attend a disciplinary it is extremely important that the charges are correctly formulated. 

Theft is a prime example: to charge the employee with “theft” is not sufficient and additional charges must be incorporated.  The reason we address other things relating to the theft is that it is not always proven in a disciplinary hearing that the act of “theft” was complete and the employee is then found not guilty.  It could be that the individual tried to steal something but was caught before the act took place. 

In these circumstances one would be left with an employee who gets away with the act and remains on your premises.  Much to your shock and horror!


In this instance we would charge the employee as follows:

1)       Theft and /or an attempt thereat [in case the act of theft was not completed]

2)       Causing the Company financial loss [could also be potentially causing the company financial loss] 

3)       Gross dishonesty

4)       Bringing the companies name into disrepute [goods may have been stolen from the client etc]

5)       Conduct unbecoming an employee of the company

Due to the above you have caused the complete breakdown in the trust relationship and the employer can no longer trust you to act in the best interests of the company

We used to charge the employee with “breaking down the trust relationship” however this has changed as a result of legislation.  Yes, breaking down the trust relationship plays a huge role but it cannot be a charge, per se.  It is definitely an extenuating factor and strengthens the outcome of dismissal but is not a charge itself.


Written warnings (1st, 2nd and Final) are only going to lead up to a dismissal situation if those charges are recorded correctly.  Should an employee be late on a number of occasions and also takes a day or two off here and there but the charges only reflect poor time keeping and nothing else, the next time the employee is absent you cannot associate the previous warning with the current incident.

This means that another first written warning is required.  

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5 thoughts on “Written Warnings and Dismissals

  • Vijay Bhagwan

    I recently came across the following case at a small newly established clothing manufacturer. An employee stole a clothing drill costing R4000. They found out about the missing drill during the next day and upon investigating the company’s surveillance system they were able to establish which employee was responsible. The drill was packaged into a box taken out of the building along with other dirt and thrown across the fence. The employee left work as he normally did and it seems either returned later or had some other person fetch the drill. He was given an opportunity to return the drill and refused to admit to the offence. The employer retained the employee’s employment status for the next few days provide the employee with additional opportunity to admit to or “come clean”. A police report was made on the date of the offence but the police was finally called in after day 3, employee handcuffed and taken to the police station where he admitted stealing and was locked up for the night, released the next day after agreeing to pay back while retaining employment at the current employer. He is still in employment and regular deductions are being made from his wages. The employee will be dismissed when the full amount of the drill has been recovered. Is it an accepted practice? Should the employee have been left in prison? What can be achieved if the matter went to court and there was a jail sentence? Employee is from a poor background, also nearing retirement and may not be able to pay back. How does the employer get recompense for this if the employee was locked up, could not pay and the item was is uninsured? Does this set a precedence regarding theft in the company and how will this be viewed in future cases of theft of different items and of lower value?      

  • Nicole van Eeden Post author

    Good comments gentlemen.  The best is to always treat every offense/situation in it’s own right. AND, the wording on any notice must make sense to all parties concerned.

  • Thokozani Absalom

    Pretty good Nicole van Eeden. A warning must contain
    *. the identity of both parties
    *. the nature of, date of and time of the offense
    *. the terms of the warning and validity period
    *. clear statement of what action is required of the guilty party to rectify the situation
    *. clear statement of the consequences of the guilty party’s failure to take heed of the requirements of the warning or of repeated offenses (of similar or other misconduct)
    Verbal Warnings
    A verbal warning is usually applied for a very minor offense, where the matter is resolved at shop floor level. Where a verbal warning is warranted, it is seldom necessary to embark on formal disciplinary procedures, and an informal procedure culminating in a verbal warning will generally achieve the desired result. As in every case, prior to issuing the warning, the manager concerned must follow a fair procedure and allow the employee the opportunity to put his side of the case.
    The verbal warning is then issued, in the presence of a witness or shop steward, and the manager issuing the warning must ensure that the employee understand why the warning has been issued and what action is required of the employee to rectify the situation, and – very importantly – the employee must understand what the consequences will be should he/she fail to take heed of the warning.

  • Pieter du Plessis

    If the Company Policy indicates (as it should), should the charge not be the unlawful possession of company property with a recommended sanction of Dismissal?

    Agree on the trust statement, not applicable for less serious cases, but a very valid point. You should trust your employees, if their conduct breaks this trust then it does make a continues relationship inappropriate.